Winter Olympics 2014: GB sets ambitious medal target for Sochi Games - but who might deliver them?

UK Sport sets goal of three to seven podiums after investing £14m - we take a look at some of the GB contenders

Britain’s Winter Olympians have been set an ambitious target of bringing home the country’s best ever medal haul from next month’s Sochi Games. UK Sport, the body that funds elite Olympic sport, today revealed a goal of three to seven medals, a range that potentially takes Britain well beyond their previous best.

It is nearly 80 years since Britain won three medals at a Winter Olympics – the gold, silver and bronze collected in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 – and such has been the recent scarcity of podium places that at the last four Games Britain have gathered four medals in total. Should Team GB reach the upper end of their target, it will match nearly a third of Britain’s entire current total of winter medals. Since the first Winter Olympics in 1924, where Britain recorded its highest single Games tally of four, only 22 medals have been won by Britons in 90 years.

At Vancouver 2010 Amy Williams’ skeleton gold was Britain’s sole success but record funding – £14m in public and Lottery money has been spent on this Olympic cycle – and investment in coaching and expanding the support network and technology available to key winter sports has significantly raised hopes of succeeding in Russia.

Skeleton – now Britain’s signature winter event – again offers the best chance via Lizzy Yarnold and Shelley Rudman, respectively world No 1 and current world champion. Britain’s women curlers are world champions, while sports such as speed skating and freestyle skiing, a newcomer to the Games, also provide medal-winning potential.

 

“If we achieve three, that’s hugely significant,” said Liz Nicholl, UK Sport’s chief executive. “It’s an ambitious target and our hopes are high. We can all honestly say this squad of athletes will be the best supported and best prepared of any winter campaign. We have more potential across more sports going into these Games than we’ve ever had in the past. We’re confident these ranges are accurate.”

UK Sport set a target of 40 to 70 medals for London 2012, with Team GB winning 65. Infrostrada Sports, a statistical analysis company, forecast Britain would win 66 medals in London and, like UK Sport, also predicts a positive Winter Games with six medals.

Britain have been here before. The target for Vancouver was three medals and around Williams’ dramatic triumph were a succession of failures. But four years of background investment allied to the maturing of the likes of Eve Muirhead, the curling skip, and the short-track speed skater Elise Christie into regular medal winners in world cups and championships has lifted horizons. The introduction of new events at which Britain has leading performers, such as freestyle skiers James Woods and Katie Summerhayes and snowboarder Jenny Jones, has also raised hopes – and raised them realistically insists UK Sport, a body not prone to exaggerating expectations.

“The bottom line is we have a track record of success over the last 18 months,” said Simon Timson, UK Sport’s director of performance. “I can’t remember a time when we’ve had five world championship medallists in Olympic and Paralympic winter sport a year before the Games.”

The Winter Paralympics, which begin in March, have been given a target of two to six medals.

A view of the Olympic rings in Sochi A view of the Olympic rings in Sochi  

The rider for British optimism is that winter sports are more difficult to predict than summer ones. Conditions have a greater influence, while in sports like speed skating one slip can have dramatic consequences, such as when the Australian Stephen Bradbury won gold in 2002 after the rest of the field were wiped out in a crash and he skated through from last place for a freak victory.

“We’re confident in setting this target, but also know there are no guarantees in sport,” said Timson. “It’s open to the elements and down to people performing on the day. There’s less room for error and there’s less opportunity for success.”

UK Sport have set a target of one to two medals for ski and snowboard, one to two for curling, one for skeleton, bobsleigh and short-track speed skating. Of the six funded sports, skeleton has received the most with £3.45m, down to figure skating, which has been given £174,338 to back Nick Buckland and Penny Coomes, who today won bronze in the European Championships. Their Sochi target is a more modest top-10 placing.

It is a crucial Games for Britain’s winter sports. The funding more than doubled from the £5.8m for the Vancouver cycle and failure to meet UK Sports’ targets could leave them open to a reduction next time – part of the reason for Britain’s Olympic success is down to UK Sport’s ruthless approach to rewarding medal-winning sports and cutting funding for those that fail. The overall winter budget remains slight in comparison to the Summer Games. UK Sport will invest £283m towards Rio 2016. Britain’s final team of around 50 athletes – a similar number to Vancouver – will be announced on Wednesday. The Games begin on 7 February.

 

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game